The 5 Elements of Successful Client Collaborations

There’s nothing like completing a project and knowing we did our best work, and our client is happy and eager to give us a great referral. While we’re fortunate enough to have this scenario play out regularly in our business, one recent project stands out as the ideal client engagement.

We completed a re-branding project for the BC Co-op Association (BCCA), which included a full re-brand package and new website. We managed the project and client relationship, led the creative direction, design and web programming, and wrote all the website content.

The final project deliverables are visually engaging, meet the client’s business needs, and are garnering a lot of attention. So why did this project go so well? After an internal project debrief and a wrap-up call with the client–both of which are crucial for learning and establishing best practices–here are the five elements we think reflect a successful client collaboration.

1. Mutual Trust

The BCCA was referred to us by a previous client. From the proposal stage onwards, the BCCA trusted our insights and recommendations. We worked diligently to gain their trust by communicating openly and transparently (see point 4), putting their needs first, and always delivering strategic, high-quality work.

Even though the re-brand was a big project (and a big investment) for the organisation, and there was uncertainly about the journey they were embarking on with us, they stuck with us and had faith in our processes. As time went on and the results of our collaboration began producing solid deliverables at each project phase, their trust in us grew, to the point that they handed over all the website content development to us, which wasn’t in our initial project scope.

2. Clear Project Objectives

The BCCA re-branded to reflect their new strategic direction. They had clear documentation outlining their business plans and marketing objectives, which we spent a lot of time processing and referred to regularly throughout the project.

A well-facilitated, and well-documented, discovery session at the project initiation phase, as well as a detailed creative brief, also helped us gain a true understanding of the organization and their target audiences. Together, we worked with the client to define how the refreshed brand and website would support the organization’s business objectives.

3. Creative Freedom Supported by Process

A project schedule is a key tool we use with all clients to manage projects. It’s a living document we refer to daily (as do many of our clients), and we update it regularly to keep ourselves and our clients on track. In our wrap-up meeting, our BCCA clients said they were impressed with our detailed workback schedule, which outlined all project phases, deliverables, responsibilities and milestone dates.

We believe creativity thrives in an environment with solid project management processes, and the BCCA project was a prime example of this. There were clear expectations at each project phase of what the creative deliverables were, and we built sufficient time into the schedule for our team to conduct visual research, brainstorm, play, and explore creative ideas.

We also had a clear dilineation of work. Our design and programming team members were responsible mostly for their creative deliverables, and the project/client managers focused on everything else, so the creatives could focus on what they do best.

4. Transparent Communications

Making a personal connection with our client was key to success. Members of our team met with the BCCA team in person for the project kick-off and discovery session, and for a few creative presentations along the way. Face-to-face meetings can be costly for virtual businesses like ours, since they often require time away from project work to travel by plane or ferry to meet clients, but the travel is well worth the investment. Our client felt important and well serviced, we established a positive tone and connected on a personal level, and even had a few laughs together.

We also set up a clear communications process at the beginning of the project. And we spent a lot of time crafting clear, well thought-through emails when sending deliverables, reporting on our progress, or checking in on client deliverables.

5. Effective Collaboration Tools

When revealing creative work for websites, it can be hard to showcase visuals and how design elements will look once they’re live and online. For this project, we used the InVision app, which helped us communicate our vision for the site and give our client a real taste for how their finished site would look and feel. The final BCCA website looks and functions as beautifully as the InVision site demos our client saw throughout the process.

For our internal team to collaborate, we’ve adopted Slack as our tool of choice. Slack keeps our inboxes clutter free and still enables us to share documents, make key decisions quickly, and record our communications. For this project, messages were flying fast and furiously daily on our BCCA thread in Slack, and it really helped us to keep the project moving forward, especially during heavy production periods.

We hope to have many more client engagements like this, where all the elements come together for fun and successful collaborations that meet everyone’s needs. What strategies do you use to keep your clients happy? Share your thoughts with us below, and thanks for reading!